Crutcher, Muskies Defense Smothers Green Knights in 40-8 Victory
It was hailed as one of the biggest sporting events in Wisconsin this past week, as the St. Norbert Green Knights traveled to take on the Lakeland University Muskies for the first time in over 60 years. This was also the first contest between these teams since St. Norbert joined the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC), but this game did not live up to the hype as the Lakeland defense dominated the Green Knights, holding them to eight points and 254 yards of total offense in the 40-8 Muskies victory. Shazon Crutcher led the way with an impressive performance, recording 14 tackles and two turnovers.
The Muskies put the pressure on from the very start, taking the opening kickoff and driving 91 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead. This drive looked like it was in a lot of trouble from the start, as Lakeland was able to earn a first down on back-to-back carries by quarterback Charl’Tez Nunnery and a 4-yard run by running back Larry Rivers on third and 4. However, a holding call set up first and 20 at their own nine. No worries for Nunnery, however, as he threw deep to Mason Prunick, who corralled the ball at the St. Norbert 40, then went the remaining distance for a 91-yard touchdown.
On the first possession for the Green Knights, D.J. Tomlinson forced a fumble that was recovered by Isaac Anaya at the St. Norbert 42. The Muskies were looking for blood early, but Nunnery’s pass was intercepted by Kendall Karcz to give the ball back to the Green Knights right away.
St. Norbert looked like they were getting a little momentum going as they earned their first first down the contest, but Crutcher squashed any hopes of a St. Norbert rally, stripping quarterback Ben Kohl of the ball. Otis Watts recovered at the St. Norbert 49.
On the next play, the ball was handed to Rivers who looked like he was going to be dragged down at the line of scrimmage, but pushed his way through the line, shaking off three would-be tacklers before finally being pushed out of bounds 29 yards later. Two plays later, Nunnery carried the ball for 15 yards and another first down. On third and goal at the two, Rivers burst off tackled for the score to make it 14-0.
Every time St. Norbert looked like they had a little something going, the Lakeland defense stepped up their game. That was the case on the next drive for the Knights, as Kohl got the drive started with a 33-yard run into Lakeland territory. However, two false start penalties set up third and 13 at the Lakeland 48. Kohl went back to pass, but D’Jimon Stuckey shook off his blocker, dragging down the St. Norbert quarterback for a 7-yard loss.
Lakeland moved the ball to the Green Knights 26, where they faced a fourth and 8. The coaching staff opted to go for it, but Nunnery’s pass fell incomplete. That gave the Knights a little momentum and an opportunity to try to get back into this game, but they were forced to punt after just four plays, giving Lakeland back the ball at their own 40-yard line.
This time, the Muskies would not be denied. Nunnery made the big play of the drive, finding Brice Kensey for 27 yards on a third and 10 play, moving the ball to the St. Norbert 33. Three plays later, the Lakeland quarterback found Kensey once again, this time for 20 yards and a score. The extra point was no good as the holder could not corral the snap, giving the Muskies a 20-0 lead.
The Green Knights had totally been dominated through the first part of this contest, turning the ball over on a fumble on each of their first two drives and punting on the second two. However, they got things going on their fifth drive of the game, moving from their 28 into Lakeland territory at the 38-yard line. On a second and 10 play, Kohl went back to pass, but the Muskies defense was right on top of the Green Knights quarterback. Karlis Ozols dragged down Kohl, forcing a fumble. Watts scooped up the ball, racing 50 yards for the touchdown to give his team a 27-0 lead.
Just before the end of the half, Lakeland extended their lead to 33. This was set up when Joe Jung fumbled a punt return. The ball was recovered by Romeo Yang at the St. Norbert 31. Seven plays later, Nunnery connected with Prunick for their second touchdown of the game, this time a 23-yard completion. The point after attempt was blocked making it a 33-0 Muskies lead heading into the half.
It had been an incredible first half for the Lakeland defense. The Green Knights had the ball nine times and had turned the ball over six times, including three fumbles. That did not include the fumbled punt return.
Things did get much better for St. Norbert in the second half. Lakeland extended their lead to 40 with a little under two minutes left in the third quarter. After the Green Knights turned the ball over on downs at the Lakeland 44, the Muskies needed just five place to find the end zone once again. Nunnery’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, this time to Kensey completed the drive.
The Green Knights took the ensuing kickoff and were finally able to find the end zone, moving 68 yards in eight plays to make it a 40-8 game. Charlie Hietpas completed the drive with a 1 yard touchdown run. That would be the only bright spot for the St. Norbert offense.
The Lakeland defense finished with four sacks, four fumble recoveries, and four interceptions. Crutcher had 14 tackles, 0.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception. Watts had two fumble recoveries.
Rivers had another big game, carrying the ball 24 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. Nunnery was very outstanding, completing 21 of 33 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns. He also gained 46 yards on 20 carries. Prunick and Kensey each had two touchdown receptions. Kensey made 12 catches for 121 yards and Prunick had three receptions for 137 yards.
It was a very tough evening for Kohl, who completed 12 of 26 passes for 54 yards and two interceptions. Kohl added 47 yards on the ground. Bryan Boockmeier had two sacks and forced two fumbles for St. Norbert.
The Lakeland University Muskies (4-0) have a bye week before they travel to take on Benedictine University (3-1) on October 9. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00.
by Robert Pannier